How to Play Texas Hold’em Poker – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
There are dozens of different poker variants, and Texas Hold’em is undoubtedly the most popular one. Even though the game requires a lot of experience and skill to play, it won’t take long before learning the basics. In our guide for beginners, we will show you the ropes and teach you how to play Texas Hold’em poker. Apart from the rules, we will also include a few basic strategies and show you how to adjust your playstyle based on your position and the cards in your hand.
Eight Quick Facts About How to Play Texas Hold’em Poker
- Players in Texas Hold‘em can check, bet, raise, call, or fold.
- Royal Flush is the best hand you can have in Texas Hold’em.
- Every round in Texas Hold’em is split into several stages known as the pre-flop, flop, turn, river, and showdown.
- Small and big blinds are forced bets players make before the round begins, and they also represent the stakes at the table.
- A croupier may deal a total of five community cards, and anyone can use them to form a hand.
- An Ace is the highest-ranked card in Texas Hold’em.
- You can muck your hand during showdown to conceal that you are bluffing and make it harder for other players to read you.
- You should always play pocket aces.
Texas Hold’em Poker Rules
Texas Hold’em is a casino card game played against other players rather than a casino. Unlike other casino games where players rely on luck to complement their knowledge of the game, poker is all about skill and making the most out of the cards you’ve been dealt.
If you’re entirely new to poker and wish to learn how to play Texas Hold’em, there are a ton of things to learn, from poker jargon to basic strategies like bankroll management that will teach you how to become a good poker player.
Before anything, you should master the rules, and the first thing you should know is that every poker round begins with a croupier dealing two cards to each player.
These two cards are known as hole cards, and they are dealt face down. Only the player to whom the hole cards have been dealt can use them. As the round progresses, the croupier will deal five community cards in total. These community cards are dealt in the middle of the table face up, and anyone can use them to create the highest-ranking hand.
How do you play Texas Hold’em poker? Before we show you that and how a round of Texas Hold’em is usually played, you must first learn the strength of each card and each hand. Additionally, you should also learn about different poker chip values beforehand, as it will make your poker experience a lot smoother.
The easiest way to learn Texas Hold’em poker hand strengths is to remember that each card’s value is its face value, with an Ace being the most valuable one. In other words, a three is worth more than a two, a seven is worth more than a four, a King is worth more than a Queen, and so forth.
As far as symbols go, each symbol has the same value. Therefore, two of spades is worth the same as two of clubs, for example. Lastly, perhaps the most important poker game rule to remember is the strength of each hand.
We’ve arranged them from the weakest hand to the strongest one:
- High Card — A high card is the lowest-ranked hand and, as the name suggests, it refers to the highest card in your hand. The highest card you can have is an Ace, while the least valuable one is a deuce.
- Pair — Two cards of the same value but different suits make a pair. For example, it can be four of clubs and four of diamonds.
- Two Pairs — When it comes to the rules of Texas Hold’em poker on forming two pairs, just remember that this hand is virtually the same as a pair. However, in this case, you will need to have two sets of matching cards.
- Three of a Kind — Three of a kind is formed by combining three cards of the same rank but a different suit.
- Straight — You can form a straight with a “five cards in a row” offsuit. For example, a four, five, six, seven, and eight create a straight. Earlier in our tutorial for Texas Hold’em poker, we mentioned card strength that affects the strength of your hand. The least-valuable straight is formed with an Ace, two, three, four, and five. Simultaneously, the most valuable straight also contains an Ace and is formed with a ten, J, Q, K, and an Ace.
- Flush — A flush is formed with five cards of the same suit of any order. If two or more players have a flush, the player with the highest-ranking card in their flush combination wins.
- Full House — While you are learning how to play Texas Hold’em, you will notice that many hands are a combination of two other hands, which is also the case with a full house. Namely, a full house is a combination of one pair and three of a kind. To form a full house, you will need three different suits alongside a pair of the same-ranking cards offsuit.
- Four of a Kind — Four of a kind is formed when you have four cards of the same rank. Naturally, each of the cards will be offsuit. The least-valuable four of a kind is formed by four deuces, while four aces comprise the best four of a kind hand you can have.
- Straight Flush — As is the case with several other hands from our Texas Hold’em Poker instructions, a straight flush is the combination of two hands; in this case, a straight and a flush. To form a straight flush, all five cards that are a part of your straight must be of the same suit — for example, a seven, eight, nine, ten, and J of clubs.
- Royal Flush — A royal flush is a Texas Hold’em Poker term that refers to the rarest and the best hand you can have in a game of Texas Hold’em. A royal flush is like a straight flush, except it is formed with the best possible combination of cards. In other words, a royal flush is a 10, J, Q, K, and an Ace suited.
An important thing to know is that community cards are available to everyone. While you can use a community Ace of clubs to form three of a kind, another player may also use it to form a straight.
Guide to Texas Hold’em
Generally speaking, your entire strategy revolves around the hole cards you’ve been dealt and the community cards you can use to form a hand. For that reason, knowing the strength of each hand is detrimental for anyone who wishes to learn how to play Texas Hold’em poker.
However, now that we’re past time, you should learn how each round of Texas Hold’em plays out.
Before the game begins, each player will be dealt a single card. The player with the highest card will be assigned a dealer button — they will be the player who makes the last decision in the following round. If you are playing poker at home among friends, the button will also refer to the player dealing cards during the round.
Additionally, one of the poker game rules states that a player who’s clockwise from the player on the button will have to make a forced bet known as the small blinds, while the player who’s clockwise from the small blinds will make the big blinds forced bet.
The player who is located clockwise from the player who’s on the big blind is in a position known as under the gun, which means they are the first to act in each betting phase.
As you are learning how to play Texas Hold’em, you will notice that the position of the button and the blinds shifts clockwise with each new round. This is done to make things fair for everyone at the table, while the forced blinds are used to ensure there is always some action going on and prevent players from simply waiting to have pocket aces before playing a hand.
The size of these forced bets depends on the table you are playing at. For example, if you are playing at a $2/$4 No-Limit Texas Hold’em table, the small blind will be $2, and the big blinds will be $4. In general, the blinds stay the same for cash games. However, they increase after a certain number of hands in tournaments, so players use different Texas Hold’em tournament strategies for tournament games.
There are more rules regarding blinds and betting that we will cover later in the article.
After a croupier assigns the dealer button and two players make their blinds bets, the croupier will deal two face-down hole cards to each player. This stage of the game is known as pre-flop, and the player clockwise from the player on big blinds will have the option to take several actions.
According to Texas Hold’em poker rules, those actions are check, call, fold, bet, or raise.
- Checking means that you are passing the action to the player who’s clockwise from you.
- Bet is the opening bet of each round. By betting, you are forcing other players to match your bet if they wish to remain in the round.
- You can call only if someone has already made a bet. Calling means that you are matching their bet.
- You can raise only if someone has already bet in the round, and you are increasing the size of the current bet. In some games, you will have a limit to how many times you can raise per round, which we will cover later in our guide to Texas Hold’em.
- If you do not wish to call or raise and bet more of your money into the current hand, or you simply dislike your cards and don’t wish to play the hand, you can always fold, which means you are conceding the pot until the next round.
The first player to make an action can only check, fold, or bet. Once they decide, the action is passed on to the next player who’s located clockwise from them.
One of the important rules of Texas Hold’em poker you should know about is that you cannot check if a player bets or raises, and you must either call or raise if you wish to continue playing the round. If you do not like your hand or cannot afford to call or raise, you may fold. Additionally, when someone raises, you can re-raise if you believe to have even a stronger hand.
After a round of betting, calling, and raising, the hand progresses to the next stage, known as the flop. The dealer will then deal three community cards face-up. Again, the player under the gun will be the first to decide which action to take.
Earlier in our tutorial for Texas Hold’em poker, we mentioned that the action is always passed clockwise. If the player who’s under the gun decides to fold pre-flop, the action simply begins with the one who’s on their left. Players who fold wait for the round to play out and take action in the following round.
The same process repeats until the next stage, known as the turn. However, instead of dealing three community cards, the croupier will deal only one community card. Once again, players will get the opportunity to check, bet, fold, and raise until the last stage, known as the river. The croupier will then deal the final community card in the last stage known as the river, and a series of actions will commence.
If one or more players made it to the last betting round, they would enter the showdown — a Texas Hold’em poker term for the card reveal. The players will then show their hands to determine the winner. The last player to bet will be the first one to show their hand. If you do not want to show your hand after the first player has shown theirs, you may muck your cards.
Of course, this means you are admitting you have been beaten and are conceding the pot. Lastly, in the case of a draw, the pot is split to the winning players.
If you wish to learn how to play Texas Hold’em poker, keep in mind that not every round has to finish with the showdown. In fact, each round of poker can end at any stage and even as early as pre-flop. Of course, when exactly the round will end depends on the players at the table. As long as there are two or more players in the round, the round will progress to the next stage.
Additionally, you don’t always need to have the best hand to win. Namely, players often use basic Texas Hold’em strategies like bluffing to make other players at the table believe they have a strong hand. Even if you have seven deuce offsuit in your hand, known as the worst possible hand in poker, you can win the pot if you raise enough to make everyone else fold.
How to Play Texas Hold’em Poker Online
Now that you know the basics, you are almost ready for your first game of poker. However, before you start, we advise you to check some websites that offer you to play poker with “play money”, which is a fantastic way to learn the rules and gain some experience.
If you wish to play poker for real money, you should learn how blinds work and how to find a table that suits you the most.
We mentioned small and big blinds earlier in our instructions for Texas Hold’em poker. As we said, they are the forced bets two players clockwise from the player who has the button have to make. However, while only two players have to make forced bets, every other player at the table will also have to bet if they wish to participate in the round.
At the same time, blinds also represent the stakes at the table. In other words, depending on the type of table you are sitting at, blinds can also represent the minimum or maximum amount you are allowed to bet or raise.
Limit Texas Hold’em
Anyone asking “How do you play poker at a Limit Texas Hold’em table?” should know that all bets are predetermined. If you wish to bet or raise during pre-flop and after flop, the maximum amount is equal to the amount of the big blind. However, on turn and river, the amount you can raise or bet doubles.
The last important thing to know for Limit tables is that each player is allowed a maximum of four bets per betting round, including bet, raise, re-raise, and cap — the final raise.
No-Limit Texas Hold’em
No-Limit is generally the preferred table option for cash players. However, if you are still learning how to play Texas Hold’em, it might be better that you avoid it just to be on the safe side.
The minimum you can bet at the No-Limit Texas Hold’em table must be equal to the size of the big blind. However, there is no maximum amount you can bet and, if you want, you can bet all your chips.
As far as the minimum amount you can raise goes, it needs to be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the round. In other words, if someone bets $5, the minimum you can raise is $5, which makes your total bet $10.
Pot Limit Texas Hold’em
As far as poker game rules go for the Pot Limit Texas Hold’em tables, the minimum bet must be the same amount as the big blind, and the maximum you can bet is up to the total amount of the pot.
As far as raising goes, the minimum amount you can raise must be at least as much as the previous bet. For example, if someone bets $10, you can only raise by $10, which will make your total bet $20.
Lastly, the maximum amount you can raise needs to be the size of the pot. One of the most important Texas Hold’em poker rules for Pot Limit tables you need to remember is that the pot is defined as the active pot plus all the active bets on the table and the amount a player needs to call before raising.
Additionally, some of the best poker sites in the US may also offer Mixed tables where the game changes between Limit and No-Limit rules. Even though the blinds may change, the rules stay the same depending on the active game.
Basic Texas Hold’em Poker Strategies
Once you learn the basics, you are ready to play poker. We’ve already discussed whether you should play online versus live poker. However, if you are new, we advise that you start online since you can play for free without having to spend your money until you are completely ready.
To help you get started, we’ve prepared a few basic tips. If you already know how to play Texas Hold’em poker, these tips won’t do much for you, but they are great for someone who’s just starting.
Learn Which Hands to Play
One of the best tips that will potentially save you a lot of money is not to play every single hand you are dealt. Sometimes, it is perfectly fine to fold pre-flop without paying the blinds. As some poker players often say, you should know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.
Of course, if you are on the big blind and nobody bets or raises pre-flop, you have no reason to fold, even if you have the worst possible hand. Just play your hand out and see the flop, and you can decide what to do afterwards.
Knowing which hands to play is one of the most effective Texas Hold’em strategies for beginners, and you should make sure always to play if you have a pair pre-flop, at least until the flop. Naturally, this will depend on other players as well, and you might decide to skip a round if someone raises or bets a big amount.
At the same time, it will also depend on the pair you have and whether it is a pocket pair (a pair made of two hole cards) or a pair made from one hole card and one community card. Of course, you should always play pocket aces.
Play Around the Button
Earlier in our guide to Texas Hold’em, we mentioned several positions in the game, such as small and big blinds, under the gun position, and the button. Generally speaking, the best position you can have pre-flop in Texas Hold’em is when you are on the button since that means you will always be the last one to make an action.
That way, you can even get away with playing “worse” hands because you will have the opportunity to see how other players intend to play out their hands and decide how to act accordingly.
Knowing how to use your position to your advantage is one of the most basic Texas Hold’em strategies and can also be one of the most effective ones. Namely, your position will greatly affect the way you play each hand. Sometimes, this may mean that you can be more aggressive, while other positions will allow you to enter pre-flop with hands you wouldn’t usually play.
Learn About Value Bets
Once you learn how to play Texas Hold’em poker and become slightly more experienced, one of the most important things you should learn is the value bets. They are a type of bet players use to increase the pot size.
If you believe that you have the strongest hand based on the community cards on the table and the cards in your hand, you should often make a value bet to increase the size of the pot.
However, even though value betting is an excellent Texas Hold’em strategy that both beginners and professional poker players use, it is also somewhat tricky because you have to be able to read other players’ hands and make an appropriate bet. For that reason, take care of how much you bet.
Namely, if you misread the situation and overbet, other players will not take the bait, and you will miss out on the opportunity to make the most out of the cards you’ve been dealt.
We have already covered value betting in another article in more detail. Therefore, if you wish to learn how value betting works in poker, make sure to check our other guide and learn how to implement value betting into your playstyle.
Lastly, make sure to remember that you are never limited to a single Texas Hold’em strategy. In fact, it is quite the opposite, and you should always look to mix things up and even combine several different strategies. By doing so, it will become significantly harder for other players to read your playstyle, which will give you an advantage at the poker table.
The Bottom Line
Apart from Texas Hold’em strategies we just mentioned, there are plenty of advanced ones that you should learn as you become more experienced. For example, you should know about poker odds and how many outs you have, which will help you decide whether to continue betting.
However, learning poker takes time, and it will be a while before you learn how to play Texas Hold’em like a pro. Until then, you shouldn’t overwork yourself and instead focus on learning the ropes.